Affordable Vintage: Deep Dive with the Alsta Nautoscaph “Jaws” Diver

Earlier this year, Marc Sirinsky, a longtime Worn & Wound fan, wrote a great story about his experience ordering a custom D.M.H. watch. It was a big hit with our readers, so much so, in fact, that Marc wanted to write about another one of his watches. So today, Marc’s here to talk about a neat little diver with a some great history in our latest installment of Affordable Vintage.

The year was 1975, and a movie by a relatively new director named Steven Spielberg was about to make people rethink their summer vacation plans. Jaws opened on over 450 screens, an unusually wide release for the time, and it would come to define the term, “summer blockbuster.” The film’s resonance with the American public can still be strongly felt. It’s is an absolute classic, one that’s been referenced, quoted, parodied, and emulated countless times. One only needs to look to the success of programming like Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, which just completed its 29th year



There are many remarkable things about this movie that I could discuss—the directing, the soundtrack, the cinematography, etc.—but we’re here to talk about watches. In the film, Richard Dreyfus plays a young oceanographer named Matt Hooper who assists in hunting down our favorite homicidal Great White, and in a couple of scenes, he can be spotted wearing some kind of dive watch on a steel bracelet. Nobody thought much of it back then, but as we all know vintage watches have become en vogue in recent years, and special attention is given to those timepieces that have a role on the silver screen.

Richard Dreyfus in “Jaws” wearing the mystery watch. Image courtesy of Primer Magazine.

The problem was that there was no clear shot of the watch in the movie, which sent watch geeks far and wide into a feeding frenzy. It took until 2010 and a lot of research to finally find the answer, and we ran a feature some years back on how the mystery was finally solved. The watch was an Alsta Nautoscaph produced by the Alstater Watch Company.

Above and beyond its involvement in one of the greatest thrillers of all time, the Nautoscaph has a lot going for it. It has a chunky, rugged look that appears ready for some serious adventures. These watches were built to last and have a heft to them that lets you know you are wearing a really serious piece.

There are many variations, but they all have a few elements in common. A robust, stainless steel case measuring 36mm or 38mm (depending on the bezel); a screw-down case back; a screw-down crown; and tritium lume markers are all elements you can expect to find on legitimate examples. They are also all certified to a depth of 999 feet and are typically marked on the dial with the number “17” or “17 jewels.”

Case back with proper markings. Image courtsey of Killer Vintage Watches.

The case back should be stamped “Nautoscaph” in the center, with 30 ATM and 999 feet also indicated. Finally, the Nautoscaph was originally issued on a Speidel Mach 1 bracelet. I prefer it on a distressed leather strap myself, but these original bracelets can be found relatively easily if you want the complete, original look.

A distressed leather strap gives a vintage Nautoscaph an extra dose of awesomeness.

Most examples were issued with a traditional round case, but some rarer executions utilized a cushion-shaped case instead. The handsets varied and some bezels had inserts while others were simply stainless—the former sometimes aging to a nice “ghosted” look.

Felsa 4007N movement inside an early Nautoscaph. Courtesy of
A. Schild 2066 movement powering a rare day/date version in a cushion-shaped case from the mid-1970s.

Early examples from the late 1960s and early ‘70s came with a durable Felsa 4007N under the hood, where the mid-‘70s saw these swapped for an ETA 2452 or 2783 for most date-only models, or for an A. Schild 2066 on the much rarer day/date variations.

Alsta Nautoscaph with a bezel insert. Image courtesy of Terapeak.

In another odd twist, the Nautoscaph was also sold with the Wakmann name on the dial. Yes, the very same Wakmann that was the U.S. distributor of Breitling watches from the 1940s through the ‘70s. Like Alstater, Wakmann was a New York company, and these two companies were founded only two years apart (1948 and 1946, respectively). Both were importers and also cased watch movements for other brands, in addition to their own. Under the hood, however, the movements were all signed Alstater (regardless of which movement was included). It is quite likely that there was a business relationship between these two companies and they likely utilized components from the same sources. There are also examples with other names on the dial, complicating things further.

Wakmann Nautoscaph with steel bezel. Notice the similarities in the dial and crown. Image from Ebay.

The cult following that the Nautoscaph has achieved in recent years has also lead to some homage pieces, including the Hooper Watch by Resco Instruments. This watch made a bit of a splash (pun intended) when it was first released, and we took a look at it back in 2013.

But then in a move that has become all too familiar these days, watch connoisseur and actor Angus Macfayden decided to revive the Alsta brand, and in 2017, the revival released the Nautoscaph II.

While these modern interpretations certainly have their selling points (Resco’s offering in particular is a very solid dive watch on its own merits), I’d argue that unless you are truly planning to explore the ocean depths, the original version is truly the way to go. For one thing, they are often cheaper than the modern versions. Resco’s Hooper Watch ranges from about $1,000 to $1,500, depending on your movement (ETA 2824-2 versus quartz) and case selection (stainless versus PVD). The Nautoscaph II is limited to 300 pieces and will run you 665 British Pounds (approximately $865.00 at the time of writing), and utilizes a Seiko NH35A movement. An original, vintage Nautoscaph can be acquired for between $450 and $950, depending on condition and which execution you’re looking for. Parts are relatively easy to come by and the vintage versions of this watch simply have a charm that the modern interpretations can’t match. Not to mention that you are getting a timepiece with historical significance and one that is truly of its time. Who could ask for better than that?

Photos not attributed courtesy of author.

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